MAY 24, 2017
“BRIXTON BLUES” (WRITER: RAM JOHN HOLDER)
ARTIST: RAM JOHN HOLDER
RELEASED 1969 ON 7” 45 AND ON BLACK LONDON BLUES LP
During the major upheavals in pop music history, rules became lost and experimentation was the order of the day. Without knowing what would sell, record companies threw everything against the wall.
The late 1960s were such a period. It seemed that television, music, and fashion turned from black and white to color overnight, and weirdness reigned.
So in 1969, when Beacon Records in the UK (and Philips in the US) issued an album of electric blues by a 35-year-old Guyanese-born folksinger named Ram John Holder, who dressed in crushed velvet, leather, and sunglasses, nobody batted an eye. Even if the album was called Black London Blues and each song title on the album ended with the word “blues.”
Holder had spent time singing folk music in New York then went to London. After much stage work and a film appearance, he wrote some pieces about the immigrant experience in the UK and committed them to vinyl.
Of the songs on Black London Blues, my personal favorite is the lead track, “Brixton Blues.” In it, he describes being driven to alcoholism and dependency by white-on-black AND black-on-black cruelty in a tough neighborhood of London. I find the rhythm guitar strong and crunchy, the rhythm section super-funky, and the solo absolutely stratospheric. Terrific vocal too.
The album sold in microscopic qualities, but Holder made more records and has continued acting as well.